Montville residents talk about how to promote inclusive school culture

Montville - At a conversation about school culture held by the Montville school district Wednesday night, participants agreed that two major concerns are the use of technology by children and the lack of a strong community in the town.

More than 50 residents participated in the conversation. Parents, teachers, students and others were sorted into four small groups and gathered in Montville High School classrooms to discuss how to create an inclusive community at the schools and encourage positive behavior in students.

Moderators guided the discussion in each small group and started the conversation by asking participants whose responsibility it is to build positive character traits in children. While a few people said that responsibility belongs to either the school or the families, most participants agreed that schools, families and community organizations need to work together to guide the children.

But most participants also shared the view that Montville's "community" component needs a lot of work.

In one small group, a participants said many teenagers talk about being eager to leave Montville. Younger Montville residents, he said, don't have the kind of pride in their hometown that residents of other towns, such as Waterford, do.

In another group, there was unanimous agreement that there is no sense of unity in Montville. Participants noted that people introduce themselves as residents of Uncasville or Oakdale rather than Montville, and associate with their neighbors in that region rather than the town as a whole.

They suggested that the separate elementary schools contribute to the regional disconnect and that events bringing the three schools together might help change that feeling.

Another common concern was the use of technology by children and teenagers. Parents said the Internet has changed how their kids interact with their peers and make it harder for the parents to be involved and supportive in those interactions. Two high school students who attended the conversation said that they'd attended school assemblies on cyberbullying, and parents said that they'd appreciate more communication from the school on those issues.

Many other issues were raised on Wednesday, and while people admitted that they didn't have the answers yet, residents seemed enthused about doing more to improve the school culture.

Superintendent Pamela Aubin said she plans to put together a team to write a report about Wednesday's discussion. The report will be used as a starting point for a similar event on Sept. 24, at which the community will work on figuring out what actions can be taken based on the results of the first discussion.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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